How is Heart of Darkness a critique of Western Civilization?


Choose one of the following questions below and construct an essay in response.  Your essay should be between two to three (2-3) pages long and fully answer the chosen question.  Be sure to use examples from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness along with concepts discussed in class lectures and outside readings.  Citation style/method is up to the individual—while historians use the Chicago Style (also called Turabian), students may use MLA standards as well.  If you are unsure how to properly cite documents, text, etc., resources are available on the internet, or you can ask me in class.  The essay will be worth ten (10) percent of your total grade.  Essays MUST be submitted through Turnitin by Saturday, 23 March.  Late submissions will NOT be accepted.




  1. What is your interpretation of the following quote from Heart of Darkness?  What is the “idea” Marlow is referring to?  How does it fit in the greater context of Marlow’s discussion?

“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only.”


  1. How is Heart of Darkness a critique of Western Civilization?  What are some of the problems Marlow becomes aware of in Western Civilization?  Be sure to analyze specific scenes from the novella.


  1. What is Marlow’s role in the process of Imperialism he describes?  Does he come to any conclusions about Western society in his experience? Be sure to analyze specific scenes from the novella.


What connections can be made between Marlow’s experiences and the “civilizing mission” of Western Imperialism?  How do specific scenes in the story provide insight into the deeper effects of this motivation?


How is Marlow’s encounter with Kurtz’s “intended” a greater criticism of Western Civilization? Does it connect with Marlow’s experience of Imperialism in Africa?


Read Chinua Achebe’s critique of Heart of Darkness (found at   What problem does Achebe have with Heart of Darkness?  Do you agree or disagree with Achebe’s assessment?  Why?  Be sure to provide examples

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